Stories » Dave Soldier traces the origin of modern song to medieval Spain / People's World

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Dave Soldier traces the origin of modern song to medieval Spain / People's World

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In the wake of our review of his Naked Revolution: A Socialist Realist Opera, the composer, Dave Soldier, thought People's World might also be interested in his CD Zajal, an album of 11 songs performed in Hebrew, Arabic and Romance (early Spanish), and one in English. The poets in all but one song lived in what was called the Golden Age of Spain, a time from 900 to 1400 CE, when a civilization flourished unlike any other in history. During that period, with occasional interruptions, Jews, Moors and Christians happily cohabited the land, sharing culture, ideas, science, medicine, music, food and language.

"On a trip to Spain in 2004," read the program notes to Zajal, "Soldier read about the Andalusian caliphate, when the Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities not only coexisted, but co-created much of the world we inhabit today. Together, they produced the novel, cowboy culture, the guitar, the dance suite, the Kabbalah, Maimonides and ibn Arabi and the discovery of the New World. And modern song: the zajal and muwashaha introduced the verse and chorus that are the backbone of popular music. Imitation of Andalusia's singing oud players begat the troubadours and the figure of the wandering poet and singer in its myriad incarnations, from Villon to Joni Mitchell."

The composer extrapolates the influence of the Andalusian musical construct out so far as to suggest it "created the tradition of Western song, from Schubert and Verdi to Hank Williams and the Beatles."

I heartily recommend the CD in physical form. I, for one, love to travel in my car with a few lively CDs to accompany my drive, and this one's gonna make it into my playlist pronto. But the complete collection is also available on YouTube. The great advantage of getting to know these songs online is that each song has been produced as a video, with full lyrics in the original languages and good English translations. Videos also include rich artist illustrations which add much to the atmosphere of each piece. The entire album can be accessed here.